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Sweet smell of freedom

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MASERU-IT had always been ’Mareabetsoe Mpeli’s dream to use her small savings to start her own business.
But lacking financial literacy and her husband showing no desire to support her endeavours, the 28-year-old soon abandoned the dream and settled for being a full time housewife taking care of her child and two siblings.

Later, she dusted herself up and reignited her passion for business and started a poultry and piggery project.
“The business was doing well and was growing significantly,” Mpeli says, adding: “The only challenge was that I was unable to keep a proper cash-flow register and did not even know when and what to save.”
That was until Gender Links stepped in.

Gender Links, a non-profit organisation committed to enhancing the status of women in southern Africa, included her in a programme that taught women financial literacy.
Gender Links is pioneering work on the economic empowerment of survivors of gender violence.
The programme was heaven-sent for Mpeli.

Having conducted research in her home of Van Rooyen in Qibing, she found out that the poultry project was viable and could pull her out of a life of dependency on her husband.
That was in 2018.
From the humble beginnings, she bought chicks from her savings and soon her neighbours were her early and biggest customers.

She ploughed the profits back into the business to help it grow and the financial literacy training from Gender Links Lesotho came in handy.
“They trained me to account for every cent put into the business. They taught me to pay my salary from the profits accrued from the project,” she said.
“Even the airtime I buy to communicate with clients should be recorded,” the now vibrant business woman said.

Today, because of good financial management, she has managed to start a new piggery project.
“I am now running two projects concurrently,” Mpeli, who has named her small
farm ‘Bone Farm’, says.
“I chose the name because this is where you find meat in abundance.”
Mpeli says business is booming in her area, which is next to the border with South Africa.

“People travelling to South Africa always need something to eat. And they buy from the restaurants and butcheries that I supply with meat. I sell the piglets aged between 6 and 7 months to the butcheries in the area,” Mpeli says.
One of her tricks is to always ensure that she has enough stock at any given time, which has helped her gain the trust of clients.

Narrating how she reaches out to get more customers, she says she targets the pay points of old age pensioners.
“Those people buy and they are trustworthy,” she says. “You can also give them items on credit.”
Asked how she gets new clients, the energetic entrepreneur says she uses Facebook and Whatsapp, which are both proving effective.
“I have seen the power of advertising through these social media platforms,” she says.

So promising is Mpeli’s business that her husband, a driver by profession, is now an enthusiastic partner.
“He feeds the chickens and pigs before leaving for his work when I am busy with household errands such as cleaning the house,” Mpeli says.
He also transports the feed for the animals from the suppliers to the farm, and then takes the product to butcheries.

With pork in high demand, Mpeli advises others to try their hand at the trade.
“The market is too big and there is no stiff competition yet.”
Although basking in success, she is not letting her guard down.
“The fear of failure keeps me awake at night,” says Mpeli, who is thinking of diversifying into other projects such as bee keeping.

“There is a lucrative market for honey,” she says, adding: “All this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Gender Links.”
Gender Links says it has worked with about 1 300 survivors of gender-based violence to reclaim their lives through entrepreneurship training linked to local economic development.

The programme is anchored by councils that provide support, mentorship, access to finance and infrastructure.
An assessment of the pilot phase of the project in 2015 showed that 91 percent of participants had completed a business plan and 79 percent followed through on the plan.
The overall increase in income in 2015 as a result of the project was over US$1 million (about M17 million), a 66 percent increase, according to Gender Links.

The organisation says 59 percent of participants added new products and 54 percent found new markets, 48 percent indicated starting a new business and 29 percent increased the size of their business.
About 41 percent opened a bank account and 35 percent increased email usage.

The empowerment has also helped reduce incidents of gender based violence.
Gender Links says 85 percent of participants said they were experiencing less violence than when they were fully reliant on their husbands for income.
Through financial training, although on a small scale, Gender Links is trying to close the curriculum gap left in the primary and secondary school education.

Studies have shown that lack of financial literacy education in schools has crippled many Basotho from running their own businesses.
“The country is reported to be characterised by low levels of financial literacy, which limits individuals’ opportunities for effective financial management and accessing financial services,” reads a study led by National University of Lesotho lecturer Dr
Mohaeka Raselimo which was published in 2017.

The study notes that about 75 percent of low-income earners do not have skills and knowledge needed to make informed financial decisions.
The study observed that financial education is being introduced in an educational system which is already overloaded with many subjects, especially at junior (Grades 8-10) and senior secondary (Grades 11-12) school levels.

It says considering the constraints of curriculum overload, as is the case in many other countries, financial education is integrated into some learning areas of the primary school curriculum and specific subjects taught at secondary school level, rather than being offered as a standalone subject.

Majara Molupe

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Police hunt former minister

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THE police have launched a hunt for former police minister, Lepota Sekola, who is suspected of involvement in stock theft.
Police want to arrest Sekola in connection with two cattle carcasses that were found at his grandfather’s funeral in Borokhoaneng three weeks ago.

During the initial interview, Sekola had insisted that the cows belonged to his late grandfather who had kept them in South Africa for better pastures.

The police didn’t arrest him at that time because investigations were still in the early stages. Further investigations have however led the police to believe that the animals were stolen from South Africa.

But when they were ready for the arrest, Sekola could not be found at his home or on his phone.

Police say Sekola will be charged with unlawful possession and illegal importation of two cows from South Africa.

The National Stock Theft Coordinator, Senior Superintendent Mapesela Klaass, told thepost last night that they “have completed investigations but he (Sekola) is nowhere to be seen”.

“We cannot get him on his mobile phones,” S/Supt Klaass said, adding that the police have been “visiting his home but he is not there”.

“His family members are aware that we are looking for him,” he said.

S/Supt Klaass said they are continuing with their search and as soon as they find him, they are going to drag him to the courts.

He said the police suspect the cows were brought from South Africa to be slaughtered for Sekola’s grandfather’s funeral.

Police sources told thepost that one of the cows had new branding while another had nothing. Both had holes on the ears that signalled that they used to have ear tags.

Majara Molupe

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Magistrate saves WILSA boss

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A Maseru magistrate, Nthabiseng Moopisa, this week stayed the criminal prosecution of Advocate ’Mamosa Mohlabula who is accused of tax evasion, money laundering and corruption.

In her application Advocate Mohlabula, who is the director of Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), said the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) should not charge her pending finalisation of her tax evasion case.

Advocate Mohlabula is out on bail after she was formally charged with tax evasion in July last year.

She told Magistrate Moopisa that the DPP, Advocate Hlalefang Motinyane, was wrong to have agreed with the Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) to bring charges against her.

“In my viewpoint, the DCEO cannot be heard to charge me in relation to matters already seized with this Honourable Court,” she said in an affidavit.

She also said there is a pending civil case in the High Court in which the DCEO’s abuse of power is referenced, saying the precise way the case is handled will depend “on the way an alleged offence comes to the light”.

“Before that pending case is finalised, DCEO has no jurisdiction to detail me to court over isolated phenomenon of tax evasion and or over grievances of former employees of WILSA,” she said.
Advocate Mohlabula was charged together with the WILSA’s chief accounting officer.

She argued that it was WILSA that was being investigated, not individuals, further saying that was “a significant safeguard that the DCEO was impartial from an objective viewpoint”.

“To exclude any legitimate doubt in this respect the DCEO returned the items it seized from WILSA,” she said.

“This was a realistic and practical step towards administering justice and to avoid premature embarrassment to the management of WILSA.”

She said the Board of Trustees of WILSA were sent briefing notes which in certain respects reflected that the DCEO returned the properties of WILSA without warning them that they were suspects.

“In any event, we proceeded to fashion our arguments before the High Court. There was, and could be, no evidence to back up the decision of the DCEO to apply for the search warrant,” she said.

Advocate Mohlabula said before they took the matter to the High Court, she cooperated with the DCEO and it conducted an inquiry into the alleged crimes.

“Now that the matter is pending before the High Court, there is no more reason for the DCEO to remand me before the pending cases are finalised,” she said.

Staff Reporter

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Mphaka barred from ABC deputy’s race

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THE All Basotho Convention (ABC) has barred former Government Secretary Moahloli Mphaka and three others from contesting for the deputy leader’s position at an elective conference set for this week.
The three are Kefeletsoe Mojela, Katleho Molelle, and Lekhetho Mosito.

Mosito was an MP who was appointed Defence Minister for a day and removed the following day during Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s premiership.
The elective conference is set to be held at the Leqele High School hall this weekend.

A circular from the ABC said the three did not qualify to enter the race because they had not held any positions in the party’s committees.

The decision to bar the three is reminiscent of the same tactics that saw former leader Thomas Thabane block Professor Nqosa Mahao from contesting for the party’s deputy leader’s position.
Professor Mahao subsequently walked away and formed the Basotho Action Party (BAP).

A weakened ABC has never recovered from that split.

Mphaka and his colleagues were vying for the deputy leader’s position until they were stopped in their tracks by the circular which was issued out on Monday this week.
Dr Pinkie Manamolela is the current deputy leader.

She was plucked from the women’s league to replace Dr Majoro who had resigned from the national executive committee after losing the leadership race to Nkaku Kabi in 2022.

There is a high chance that the four could drag the ABC to court to assert their right to contest. The legal wrangles will likely destabilise the party that is still smarting from a thorough thrashing in general elections held in October 2022.

Mphaka this week told thepost that he will challenge the decision to block him in the courts of law.
“They are crazy people,” Mphaka said.

“I will not allow this to happen,” he said.

“I have already instructed my lawyers to launch an urgent application in the High Court to challenge the decision before Friday this week.”

He complained that it was not clear why the party had decided to kick him out of the race after he spent a lot of time and resources campaigning.

Mphaka said the national executive committee “usually allows members to contest for positions without considering whether they were ever in the constituency committees or not”.

The contenders in the race are former Water Minister Samonyane Ntsekele, ex-Police MP Lehlohonolo Moramotse, former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Leshoboro Mohlajoa, and Maseru Star Taxi Association member Sekhonyana Mosenene.

A member of the national executive committee told thepost that “many of us support Mphaka and Kefeletsoe at all costs”.

“We were dismayed when we saw the circular removing the duo from the race,” he said.

He said many ABC members were rallying behind Mphaka because “he has been campaigning even before everyone could start”.

“They know he has lots of followers.”

He said it is unfair that Mosenene has been allowed to run but he has never held any position in any constituency except that he represented his taxi association in the ABC national executive committee.
“Why has he been allowed to contest yet he is just like Mphaka and Kefeletsoe?”

He complained that Sekhonyana, while representing taxi operators in the committee, was eventually made the deputy party spokesman despite not being in any constituency committee after ’Matebatso Doti resigned from the position.

“Mphaka was chosen by the party to lead the 2022 elections campaign teams and develop a party manifesto,” he said.

“He was allowed to do all that without being involved in any party structures.”

The party’s spokesman Montoeli Masoetsa declined to comment.

Dr Manamolela told thepost that “the decision was not made by the party’s national executive committee”.

“I do not want to talk much …but it is not true that the party’s NEC decided to remove Mphaka and Kefeletsoe”.

Kabi could not be reached for comment.

Nkheli Liphoto

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